Nader’s warning

Normally, I would have forecast the presidential election months ago, and I have a pretty good record at that. I warned my tea-party friends sometime last March that if John Kasisch was not the Republican nominee, they need to get used to the idea of President Clinton again. But I never got around to writing that down. So you might take my word for it, but you don’t have to.

There’s who I think will win, and there’s who I want to win.

I’m kinda of fond of Ralph Nader’s  answer to BBC when they asked him who he would vote for. He didn’t answer the question directly, but insisted that the two major candidates were equally dangerous. The incredulous BBC guy pressed him, and he claimed that Hillary being clearly more competent made her even more dangerous. “Trump is so erratic that the Republicans will have to resist his policies to save their brand,” He said (I think – I’m paraphrasing a little) “At least until they find an excuse to impeach him.”

Clinton, meanwhile could do a lot more damage, by Nader’s reasoning, in small, reasonable increments. I hope he’s wrong, because she’s almost certainly our next president.

For the Trumpsters grinding their teeth about that, you can take some tiny comfort at this: history has not been kind to the same party successors of transformational presidents. That’s a tradition that goes all the way back to John Adams, and includes Martin Van Buren, Andrew Johnson,  William Taft, Herbert Hoover, Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, and Poppy Bush.

Maybe we should cut Johnson and Ford from that list. They were never elected in their own right. Teddy Roosevelt and Harry Truman are the only ones to buck this trend.

There is nothing about Hillary’s performance as a candidate or as an official that makes me believe she could follow Roosevelt or Truman. She has an insular, defensive management style. She lacks both vision and real charisma. She is too business friendly to become beloved by the left, and too not Republican to become beloved by business. This does not leave her a working coalition that will survive the Never Trump movement.

Republicans are already talking about impeaching her. Absent of a dramatic changeover in congress, I don’t think Ralph Nader has much to worry about.

Then I reflect upon Richard Nixon, one of the most qualified men to ever run, who initially lost to a charismatic junior Senator, but then learned from his mistakes, and ran an exceptional campaign against an erratic demagogue that failed to capture the support of his own party. Nixon had a an insular, defensive management style. He lacked both vision and real charisma. He was too regulatory to be beloved by the business community (he was the father of the EPA) and to not-a-democrat to get any help from the left.

He was re-elected in a historic landslide.

I’m still going to vote for her. As a radical moderate, I really have no better choice. She is, really, the paragon of Reasonable Progress in Due Course. (This has been a journey for me. I voted for Nader in 2000).

But Nader’s warning haunts me. It will be up to her to prove him wrong.


A Few Quick Links

Hey there, you can follow either of my Tumblr blogs (separate from this one)

Notes from the Meeting


Travels with Bongo

Both are mostly about images, which WORDpress doesn’t handle without drama (as in storage space).

The origin of Geeks infographic.

I think they fail to differentiate between Geeks, Nerds and Wonks. You could make an argument that Nerds and Wonks are sub-categories of geeks, but I’d disagree.  I think they’re separate.

Inventor James Dyson is definitely a nerd, but since he recently told Time magazine, “I hated fantasy as a child and I still hate it. I don’t like science fiction either” – he is disqualified as a geek.

From the same publication, Fareed Zakaria personifies wonk (I could literally define it as anything FZ would talk about on his CNN show or website), but I really doubt he could tell you the difference between Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner.

Maybe he can.

On  a more weighty subject that FZ would approve of,  the Washington Post has collected 40 Maps that Explain the world

Related: Bored Panda’s 40 Maps they didn’t teach in school. Less educational- more weird.

Now you know.

A few thoughts about politics

A quick disclaimer: I am a resident of Arizona’s 4th Congressional district, which is comprised of just about every democratic neighborhood in Phoenix, so that three other majority Republican districts could be formed from the suburbs. Congressman Ed Pastor is effectively unopposed here, and Obama will likely carry this precinct by double digits.

But, while Pastor goes back to Congress (where he is among the most liberal) Mitt Romney will still carry Arizona by a good seven points. Mormons vote reliably. Hispanics do not. There are not enough non-Hispanic Democrats left in this state to make up the difference.

Richard Carmona has an outside chance of upsetting Jeff Flake for Senate. Good for him. And I keep hope alive that some reasonably competent individual will step up and oust Joe Arpaio as sheriff. The trouble is that while it’s easy to find better police administrators than Arpaio (you would actually struggle to find worse at this budget level), few of those guys are good politicians. And while I have always believed that Nickel-bag Joe is a menace as sheriff, there is no denying that he is a competent politician.

So I am voting out of a sense of civic duty more than any real hope of affecting the outcome.

I am a recovering liberal in that I am a reflexive liberal trying to become more moderate. (In AZ – moderate is still liberal. Not kidding.) I’m going to vote for President Obama because I think he did the best he could with a bad situation.

“It could have been worse” is not a resounding re-election slogan, but there we are.

You’ll have to trust me that this is not a partisan position: if you are moderate, you really have no alternative but the Democrats. This is not because the Dem’s have moderated their views to any substantial degree, but because the Republicans have allowed the Tea Party and the evangelicals to drag them so far to the right that they only speak to their own base now.

Jeff Flake’s ads decry that Carmona supports Obamacare as if this were akin to supporting puppy murder. No follow-up reasoning. Obamacare = bad – that’s all you need to know.

Of course he supports Obamacare. He’s a Democrat (despite the fact that he was W’s Surgeon General). That’s what they do. Why should this bother me? Flake can’t be bothered to explain that. I’m not part of his base.

This is why Carmona is in the hunt when he really should be ten points down.

This is also why Mitt Romney can’t pull ahead of a mediocre President sitting on 8.3% unemployment – his party has dragged him so far from center he can’t find his way back.

Mitt Romney used to be centrist. It’s true. He was the governor of the People’s Republic of Massachusetts – as a Republican. I remember in early 2007 watching him talk on C-span about how he was able to work with Democrats to solve problems. This was early in the GOP primaries, before some campaign pollster convinced him he could not win unless he prostrated himself to the evangelicals. So he did, competing for that vote with 6 other candidates. Meanwhile, after Gulianni collapsed, McCain was able to run off with all the business Republicans, who were still a deciding force back then, and win the nomination.

When McCain lost the general election, the GOP’s response was to purge itself of all of the moderates. Their reasoning for this escapes me. But they won some seats in 2010 – and so they doubled down on this approach.

If Romney had been able to run as a centrist leaning, problem-solving business Republican,  he’s be five points up. He could distance himself from the abortion freaks, he could talk about correcting Obamacare instead of just repealing it, he could talk about global warming as if it were a real problem, he could be making the argument that budget deficits are not the end of the world, if the money goes to create jobs, he could say all kinds of things that moderates like me would at least listen to.

These were more-or-less his positions when he governed Massachusetts. But the GOP has gone so far to the right since then that he can’t even run on his own record without alienating his base.

And here’s the real trouble: the hard-right GOP base is a dwindling resource. They are old and white in a  country that is growing younger and browner. This may be the last presidential election with a caucasion majority. (So much for their dreams of repealing the 14th amendment. Seriously – they talk about this like it’s a real plan.)

More importantly, he can’t rely on his own instincts. His instincts are to move the line and get to a deal. The Tea Party sees political activity the opposite way. Romney has been pretending to be someone he’s really not, and this may be the source of all these unforced errors. But even without these errors – he can’t win. Presidential elections are decided in the middle. He can’t get there from where he’s had to go.

Careful What you wish for…

For the Republicans, its a case of Careful What You Wish For. They have their majority in the House, and a working minority in the Senate. But to get that, they drank the Tea, and that same Tea is about to do them in.

The Tea Party sees the Debt Ceiling” Crisis” as their best hope to starve the beast – to eliminate the Federal Government as a major force in our lives. They believe the Debt Ceiling is an accounting trick, and many will not vote to raise it under any circumstances. It remains unclear whether the adult wing of the GOP can secure passage of anything without them (since apparently, working with Democrats is still unthinkable).

Here’s the Radical Moderate Position on the completely self-inflicted Debt Ceiling Crisis:

You pass a clean debt ceiling bill in the middle of the night – just like they always have in the past – not because its the responsible policy thing to do, but because it prevents one party or another from turning this into a hostage situation like we have now.

Everybody – that’s everybody – knew the budget passed would require additional debt by the summer of 2011. You can be appalled, but you cannot feign surprise.  They’ve had the same numbers in both houses since last November. If you haven’t affected “lasting change” by now – it’s too late.

Just raise the debt ceiling. Every alternative is actually worse now.

I know the Tea Party isn’t fond of facts clogging up their emotional catharsis about the Crushing Debt, but the chart above is derived from fairly undisputed numbers.

If you are serious about the deficit, you gotta put the Bush tax cuts on the table. Because the economy is what it is, and the wars can’t just be turned off. (Oh – and TARP actually made money – probably because it was actually cooked up by Republicans to begin with).

If the money that went into Social Security had actually stayed in Social Security, it would still be solvent.

Speaking of shameful legislative skullduggery – Mitch McConnell is right: if the Tea Party (let’s face it – they’re the problem here) torpedoes every  Ceiling deal, they will be on the hook for whatever happens August 3rd and after.

The Democrats would have just raised the ceiling. You know its true.

I know none of the Tea Party Caucus read my blog, but here’s some advice anyway:

You could vote yes because its actually good for the country (at this point). Did we spend too much? Probably. But – and this is key – we already spent that money, in the sense that once you order the food from a restaurant, you still have to pay for it, whether you enjoyed the meal or not.Even if you have to borrow money from your date.

As one of our supervisors famously explained to an obstructive client, “Look. This is what it costs. At some point, you have to grow up and pay the bill.”

Or you could vote yes because you value your own stock portfolio.

OR you could vote yes because otherwise you get the blame for an economy that might otherwise sink the current President. Pinning a secondary collapse on obstructionist Republicans helped FDR get elected in 1936 with 12% unemployment; and it could help BHO do the same thing in 2012.

That’s right: a vote against the debt ceiling is – in an admittedly convoluted but foreseeable way – a vote for President Obama.

Now you know.

Graphic displays of hope and fear (and some words for the writers)

From the NYTThe top bar is how wealth is actually distributed in the US. The middle bar is how (via survey) we commonly believe it is distributed in the US. The bottom bar is how we think (again via surveys) wealth should be distributed, given the choice.

That’s right – in reality, the top 20% of the income bracket owns 85% of the country while  the bottom 40% of us own nothing. When liberals whine that our defecit is at least partially caused by not taxing the rich enough – they actually have a case to make. But, as the New York Times article this was pulled from points out:

Why would the poor oppose taxes on the wealthy? Because many believe that they, or at least their children, will eventually be wealthy, voting for taxes on the rich may feel like voting for taxes on themselves. As a result, even the word “redistribution” has negative connotations.

So hope contributes to our national debt as much as fear. Good to know.

We’ll come back to hope. On the subject of fear – here’s the graphic truth about radiation levels courtesy of XKCD:

So you don’t take HP damage until you absorb a full Sv. And you don’t get that much accidentally.

What’s happening in Japan is pretty much a worse-case scenario about nuclear plant disasters. If this is all an 8.9 quake and a Tsunami can do to a coastal nuclear plant (so far, no one outside of the plant itself has taken harmful levels of radiation) – then its simply not that dangerous. How many people die every year mining coal?

Thousands (worldwide).

Vintage Russian safety posters – from English Russia. It translates “Don’t clean the cylinder while it’s in motion.”

Some links and notes (mostly words) from Writer’s Group – and elsewhere:

Join  or meet our gang at First Friday tomorrow night. Chaos of the Earth Cafe and Art Collective – 910 N. 5th Street (downtown Phoenix) – from 6pm to 10p.

One of our own – Greg Clifford –  has published a story in Golden Visions Magazine.

Literotica is a real thing – and NSFW.

A sample of Eudora Welty’s southern literate charm: Why I Live at the Post Office

Kelly and Kelly’s Moorea website. It was all true – with photos.

Finally, James Gleick explains to Wired magazine how everything is information and information is everything.

Now you know.

And .. We’re Back

Once upon a time I made a New Years resolution not to make any more New Years Resolutions, and so far I have kept that.

I have an unrelated goal this year, however, of being a more disciplined marketer blogger. I write stuff, and I’d like people to read it. This is one of the ways to make that happen.

We left off last August, and I have learned some thing since then. I won’t try to recap four months of hard lessons in one post, so we’ll stick to what has been discovered recently.

When lighting for TV (I’ve been involved with this recently in my day job) remember that the camera doesn’t see light, only light bouncing off of something. That’s why they obsess over even washes – it really does matter. In the distant past,  up to say five years ago, you could blend the washes by adding a bunch of diffusion. With HDTV, diffusion looks like – diffusion. Hard light is better.

We still added a bunch of frost.

In theatrical lighting (and TV lighting uses the same toys) LED lights are now competitive in every area except price. And they are one generation away from digging into that as well. Nobody’s going to FEL’s or BHP’s. Honest.

The Droid is a good camera, but using it that way sucks up battery fast. It is a second rate GPS, and a clunky DVR.I ended up hiking with four separate devices.

The Hiking Guide is 90% in the can. Save your receipts, and write down contact info in two different places.

If you trade away your two leading scorers for spare parts, your team won’t do as well. It’s not so much that Sarver let Stoudemire walk away (though he shouldn’t have), it’s that he failed to replace him with anyone who would be a legitimate starter (not an all-star – just a starter) at the power forward position. They traded away their leading scorer – and they still do not have a legit 4. This current roster can’t make the playoffs. I can vaguely understand  that Sarver is maneuvering around the salary cap and the near-certain lock-out looming next season, but I really don’t care. The Suns were contenders six months ago. The owner squandered that. That’s why every game from here out will have more empty seats.

My wife and I were gifted with attending Dave Ramsey’s Fiancial Peace University. 80% of that course is the same information  you can learn from any other basic financial advisory course. Make a realistic budget. Stay in that budget. A couple of things Ransey teaches that others might not:

  • If you don’t have $1000 in the bank, you are wasting your time trying to pay down credit cards. You’ll only end up running them back up for emergencies. So put that money in the can first, and if you spend it, make minimum payments until you’re back up to $1k.
  • As you start paying off the credit cards, start with the lowest balance first, regardless of interest. Statistically, this approach has a better chance of success.
  • Along this same line, you have no business investing until you have 3 months expenses in the bank (which is easier to get to if you pay off the credit cards).
  • Any investment that doesn’t reliably return at least 6% won’t keep up with taxes and inflation.

Now Dave (as we call him in the class) also recommends mutual funds, claiming you should get 12% out of them. After all, the stock market has made money in any ten year period since the great depression. He’s out of date there (we were watching 2006 DVD’s). We are in a ten year period where the market overall has lost money.

Which brings us to the links:

From Slate

The above from a long and enlightening article in Slate.

And fun with math and money from the BBC – who really likes this sort of facty-stuff.


Now you know.

Some quick notes before I pass out

If you’re just hiking for fun, all you really need is water and some idea of where you’re going.

If you are researching a guidebook, though, and you are not fussy about preparations at the trailhead, you end up with poor notes, bad pictures and incomplete GPS tracks. I’m tired of that, so I’m going to make a trailhead checklist.

Even if you’re an interested party, graduation ceremonies challenge anyone’s ability to withstand boredom. This is the best format we can come up with? Really?

The starters for the San Antonio Spurs could probably force a 7 game series against the Suns, if they could play 40+ minutes every game. They can’t, and the Suns bench (which is probably a play-off team in the eastern conference) has walloped them early in the 4th quarter every game.

Tony Parker is every bit the defensive liability that Steve Nash is. It’s just that Bruce Bowen isn’t around to make up for that anymore.

There is much talk through the media, mostly from guys who picked the Spurs to win in 6, about how the Spurs have too much “championship pride” to be swept. Pride is beside the point. What those championship teams had was better defensive speed, better shooting range, a deeper bench and younger legs. Why would these aging legends what to run themselves half-to-death to squeak one victory away from a Suns team that will only humiliate them back in Phoenix? Pride?

Pride can force a game seven. It rarely forces a game five.

You know that Goran Dagjic and Leandro Barbosa and Steve Nash would be in violation of HS 1070 every time they take the court at the USAC, right? There’s no place to keep your papers in a basketball uniform.

If you’re a German Tourist trying to decide between Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon, how hard is that decision now? There are a lot of different languages muttered by the folks who crowd the uptown Sedona visitor’s center. They’ll be less and less now.

Much as I would like to T-off on the Show Me Your Papers law, it will not survive the court challenges.  By that time, though, it will be clear to all but the racists Tea Party ilk that this thing absolutely creates more problems than it solves.

Now You Know.